The Minister of Fisheries yesterday flatly denied that the Western Cape accounts for some 80% of commercial fish landings and activity in the country. Her motivation for the unsubstantiated denial is based on her sudden desire to move the administration of fisheries from Cape Town to Pretoria. The depth of her (and those of her advisers and senior officials) ignorance and lack of knowledge is extremely profound.
According to the most recent FAO data on SA fish landings by region /area (and this will be data supplied by her very own department!), the Western Cape in fact accounts for no less than 95.7% of all commercial fish landings (see FAO data table below). We do admit that since 2004/2005 there have been significant migrations of pilchards (for example) further east and the expansion of the squid fishery which is now largely based in the Eastern Cape. This would have contributed to a shift in fisheries economic activity to regions such as Port Elizabeth. This fact is supported by the reduction in fishing economic activity on the West Coast in towns like St Helena and Saldanha for example. On the flip side, fisheries such as the KZN Prawn Trawl fishery based in KwaZulu-Natal has all but collapsed with little or no prawn trawling taking place any longer.
The tuna long line fishery which could have provided an economic boon to Richards Bay, Durban, Port Nolloth and Port Elizabeth has essentially contracted and South Africa's tuna long line fishery is in serious trouble as quota holders cannot even attract foreign vessels and skills required to harvest these tunas due to the Minister's own bureaucratic bungling, ensuring that obstacles remain firmly in place scaring off foreign partnerships and investors which are desperately needed.
So Minister, your populist rant about poor people being denied access to fisheries is caused solely by your own bungling. Why dont you ask the Port Nolloth community why they cannot even get one of their 5 tuna long line fishing permits onto a vessel? To date, South Africa continues to bungle and drag its feet failing to negotiate a larger Souther Bluefin tuna allocation from CCSBT. So we are granted a paltry 40 tons of SBT which is one of the most valuable of all tunas sold on the Japanese market.
I repeat. This Minister and her bungling officials remain the greatest threat to effective and efficient fisheries management in this country. Instead of mouthing off populist and ill-informed rants about "previous governments" and "spreading fish across the country", this Minister should try and learn a bit about fisheries management and she could start by employing some professional experts to advise her and to run the Fisheries Branch. It does not help when the Minister's Special Adviser is an education specialist and the head of the Fisheries Branch is the current senior administrator in the office of the DDG.
In closing, the Minister may want to "apply her mind" to the South African Country profile map on the FAO website (ftp://ftp.fao.org/FI/DOCUMENT/fcp/en/FI_CP_ZA.pdf). This may help her and her advisers picture why the bulk of all commercial and recreational fishing takes place from the Western Cape Province.
The table below is taken from the Food and Agriculture Organisation's website (www.fao.org).